The Radio Malaspina Society (RMS) Board of Directors called a Special General Meeting (SGM) for Monday, January 13, to request permission to take out loans to ease the Society’s financial situation. Eight of nine board members and 48 voting members filled the Ladysmith Meeting Room at the Coast Bastion Hotel to participate in the process. As tensions have run high at previous meetings, Chairperson Doug Creba opened the proceedings with a statement that structure and calm would prevail.
RMS, created to run Vancouver Island University’s campus radio station CHLY, is struggling with a financial crisis that developed under the leadership of the previous Board of Directors. At the Society’s Annual General Meeting in October 2013, the majority of that board was replaced. President Gord Bibby stated that the Society was in “dire shape.”
The primary purpose of the SGM was to gain the membership’s approval to seek up to $50,000 in loans to service the Society’s existing debt and offset expenses garnered through April 30, 2014, to the end of the fiscal year. Treasurer Jesse Woodward reported that the Society’s average monthly shortfall has been $8,865 since May 2013. At the end of December, the total debt load was $35,000.
Several board members cited operations at the Globe Hotel, beginning May 2013, as the cause of the financial crisis. Creba announced that the Society’s relationship with the Globe Hotel had been terminated effective January 31—a decision reached unanimously by the board weeks before the SGM. The debt remained.
Director Joani Isberg-Herron spoke of a $12,000 loan taken by the former board without the members’ approval in May 2013 which violated the Society’s Constitution and Bylaws. As such, she felt it was important to honour the Society and its members by holding a vote at this time.
Some members expressed concern with the wording of the resolution, including the lack of an interest rate cap or a plan to re-pay the loans.
Other members spoke strongly in favour of the resolution, clarifying that the Society wasn’t incurring additional debt but servicing existing debt. Board members also reassured the assembly that they would seek the minimum in loans required at the most favorable interest rates available.
When asked whether the Society could continue to function without the loans, Woodward replied, “I would say no.” The membership voted in favour of the resolution with no dissenters.
In spite of the chair’s efforts to maintain order, a former CHLY station manager repeatedly disrupted the proceedings by speaking out of turn, overpowering other attendees’ comments, and delivering lengthy questions laced with provocative commentary. The Chair called him out of order on five occasions and subsequently threatened him with expulsion. Eventually the Chair refused to recognize the member who continued to comment loudly.
Acrimony and tension have been running high at RMS for many years. The Board of Directors are faced with stabilizing their financial position as well as uniting the membership. All seem to agree that the primary focus must be on producing high-quality radio.
Looking forward, Station Manager Bob Simpson reports that he is seeing increased interest in CHLY from the VIU student community. While he acknowledges that managing the “horrific aspects of the financial situation” will be a lot of work, he feels optimistic that a safe, welcoming atmosphere can be restored at the station.
The full text of Director Cameron Wigmore’s statement about the SGM is available at chly.ca and membership commentary around the meeting appears in the Facebook group.
If you’d like to learn more about CHLY, volunteer or pitch a show, visit chly.ca.